An ocean liner to boost Montreal Casino revenue

montreal casino

This post originally appeared on TaylorNoakes.com, republished with permission from the author

So Loto-Québec is planning on introducing drinking on the floors of the province’s four casinos as part of a broader effort to update and modernize the casinos to
increase revenue and draw higher attendance. Currently both are down, prompting the péquiste health minister (?) to state “it’s time we got our heads out of the sand and ensures our casinos can be competitive.” As it stands, Québec’s casinos are the only casinos in North America where the consumption of alcohol is not permitted on the gaming floor.

When the Casino de Montréal opened in 1993 it was a bit of a big deal. It was supposed to be classy. The restaurants were top-notch, the chefs and wine selection unbeatable. There was even a dress code – jackets and ties for men, no hats, no jeans etc.

I think this is something we should maintain. Everything about our casino, as initially intended, was almost designed to de-emphasize the gambling:

It’s not a big gray box. It doesn’t disorient the patrons by omitting windows. It invites patrons to step away from the gaming, to go outside and get some fresh air. These are design elements we should continue to value.

There’s no doubt our casino and state-regulated gambling is useful – it funnels money from the people’s pocket back into the government purse. Loto-Québec is a
provincial crown corporation whose mandate is ‘to operate games of chance in the province in an orderly and measured way’ and I would argue strongly they do a
generally good job, even though I’m morally opposed to the practice in the first place.

I suppose it’s not so bad if it’s rich tourists who are losing their money – they can afford it.

But all too often casinos wind up preying, even if indirectly, on the poorest elements of society. The people most desperate for a financial break are all too often those with bad finances and who exercise poor jugement with their money. And whereas there once were controls, like the dress code and limitations on drinking on the playing floor, these have been shelved to accomodate the poor yet regular patrons who provide the bulk of the casino’s revenue during a prolonged period of economic instability, such as we’re experiencing right now.

Why look to locals as our main source of casino revenue? And why isn’t Montreal’s casino generating money specifically for our own needs?

The city could use revenue generated by the Casino de Montréal more immediately and doubtless more efficiently. As it stands today this money is sent to Québec City, where I suppose it’s moved back into general revenue. This doesn’t help us much at all, yet Montréal is on the hook for nearly every negative repercussion from casino operations in the city – everything from the social problems associated with gambling addiction in our poorest neighbourhoods to the inevitable suicides and road accidents that happen on the otherwise deserted junction of Ave. Pierre-Dupuy and the Pont de la Concorde.

So let’s do something different.

The city ought to take in a greater share of our casino’s revenue, but we can’t argue this position unless we’re willing to provide our own plan to increase attendance and revenue. Thus, I would argue strongly that the city should look to acquire the single greatest missing piece from our casino’s master plan – a hotel – and assist in redeveloping the Casino de Montréal with a new hotel and resort component. This in turn could be part of a larger plan to increase the use and revenue generated by all the diverse functions of Parc Jean-Drapeau.

ile jean drapeau
Inter-island Channel, Parc Jean-Drapeau

But where would we build a hotel? Ile-Notre-Dame doesn’t have much space to support a large hotel and construction may render the island temporarily unusable.

Permanently mooring a cruise ship or ocean liner within proximity of the casino presents us with an interesting possibility to get everything we need for a major
casino expansion without having to build much. It would allow us to rather suddenly put a lot of hotel space more or less in the centre of the city’s park islands.

Rather than building new we simply tow a full expansion into position. It would look good, it would be exceptionally unique and would further serve to provide a lot of direct financial stimulus for our otherwise underused (and at times worn-down) Parc Jean-Drapeau.

I’ve often felt that this grand playground lacks any unifying cohesiveness – it’s simply the space we put all the stuff we can’t place elsewhere. We’ve purposely
concentrated a lot of diverse entertainment in one space and have done well in maintaining that space’s utility within the public conception of the urban environment. Yet it’s still very detached, isolated even, from the rest of the city.

I feel a floating hotel solves more than one problem, using the location’s relative isolation to its advantage. For locals and people from the region, it could provide a much-needed ‘urban resort’, a place to get away from it all that’s oddly located in the middle of everything.

For foreign tourists or families on vacation, it provides a hotel in a controlled environment almost exclusively dedicated to family friendly activities. Re-
instituting the dress code and prohibiting drinking from the gaming floor in this newly expanded casino could serve to help sell the image of a classy and unique
vacation experience catering to a wide variety of tastes.

Think about it: Parc Jean-Drapeau is a large multi-use park with a considerable natural component, occupying roughly the same amount of space as Mount Royal Park (2.1 square kilometers). It features, among others, a beach, an aquatics centre & rowing basin, manicured parks and trails, an amusement park, a historic fort and a premier outdoor concert venue. Placing a hotel in the middle of it, associated with the aforementioned casino, would surely drive up revenue not only for the casino but everything else going on at the park as well.

It could conceivably make the park more useful during the winter months and provide sufficient new revenue so as to redevelop the Biosphere, Helene-de-Champlain
restaurant and give the whole place a facelift too. And I don’t think it would take much of anything away from the city’s existing hotels as, from my experience, Parc Jean-Drapeau is nearly exclusively used by locals, being perhaps a little too detached for tourists.

For your consideration, this rather handsome looking (and famous) ocean liner, the SS United States, can accomodate 5000 people and is in desperate need of a buyer to keep her from the breakers:

SS-United_States
SS United States by Wikipedia contributor Lowlova

Definitely worth reconsidering, in my humble option. If you happen to be looking to buy a cruise ship, look no further.

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